Tuesday 29 October 2013

HelpHound - the Gold Standard for estate agents*

*A client's words - not ours. 

If you did not see Channel 4's Dispatches programme last night it's available on 4OD; and here's Estate Agent Today's comment.

Dispatches has yet again highlighted the need for respectable estate agents to find a way of differentiating and distancing themselves from this kind of negative publicity. And what better way than to show credible client comments?

Well, that's what Patrick Rampton of Rampton Baseley said to us: that it was his fervent wish that HelpHound become that 'Gold Standard'. Awards and membership of professional bodies are all well and good, but prospective clients want (and need) the reassurance that Dialogue brings. It's why all our clients' review modules are headed by this...

'Unbiased' and 'Independent' - the keys to credibility

...and it's the reason that the footer of the email inviting the review explains why you're working with HelpHound...

Dialogue - showing you subscribe to the 'Gold Standard'

Wednesday 23 October 2013

A challenge for the banks

Banks received a double-whammy in today's Times:


So here's our suggestion:
  1. Adopt Dialogue - and invite your customers to tell you what they think; you will get a far greater (and more representative) response than with your conventional CRM mechanisms
  2. Reward your customers who write a review (any review) by making a donation to the charity of their choice - and we'll match that with a donation from HelpHound
That way you address the twin negative perceptions: that you're 'not changing for the better' and (to quote Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England) 'socially useless'.

Positive negatives

Managing your online reputation is just as much about 'not getting bad reviews' as it is about 'getting great reviews'. Our clients know this because they see the negatives, but, except in very rare instances, no-one else - except the business - does!

That's because Dialogue is so effective at diverting comments that would otherwise be posted about their businesses. We'll expand on this crucial aspect of our service here.

Dialogue managing negative comment  

No business is perfect, and Dialogue acknowledges this by giving you and your customer the opportunity to resolve issues in private. How effective is this? 

We process many thousands of reviews on behalf of our clients every year and the most recent figures we have (for the year to 1 October) show that for every 100 negative posts through Dialogue, less than 3 end up being a published review - not only on Dialogue, but anywhere else on the web.

We also monitor our clients' reputations on the sites that matter to them (TripAdvisor and the other OTAs for hotels, Google, AllAgents and ReviewCentre for estate agents, and so on) and it's here that providing a channel for your less than completely satisfied customers comes into its own. All our research shows that if those customers receive your email promptly, they will resist the temptation to post publicly. 

Volume v. the Killer Review

We see them both: if you run a hotel you know you are unlikely to satisfy all your guests all of the time; if you are an estate agent you know that there will be times when someone in the equation is less than happy.

Regular readers of this blog will understand what we mean by a 'killer' review: it's a review that, all by itself, shown up in a Google search or on a specific site, has the ability to severely impact a business. 'Volume' is the 'drip' of negative reviews (none of which may be individually that harmful) that gives potential customers cause to look elsewhere; it will impact rankings and scores and generally make your business look worse on whatever site that 'drip' appears.

Dialogue addresses both. It gives the potential poster of a 'killer review' and the simply 'disgruntled' a channel to voice their concerns. Most important of all it gives them a channel that they positively welcome. We see comments like "I'm so glad you asked me my opinion" all the time.


The average hotel receives about 8 negative reviews through Dialogue for every 100 reviews posted. That's 8 potential one or two star reviews to TripAdvisor managed in private - and with the added bonus that in the majority of cases the guest can be encouraged to 'give the hotel a second chance' and return to stay again.

The average estate agent client receives less (about 3 negatives per 100 reviews) but they tend to be potentially more damaging, simply because of the nature of the business - large financial transactions with potential legal implications.

So: we, like you, like to focus on the positive applications of Dialogue: driving more business to your door. But to do this effectively we have to be just as effective at managing the negatives.

Thursday 17 October 2013

Now your guests get the FIRST word on TripAdvisor

You heard it here first: TripAdvisor have thrown away their Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI)*, which we thought was one of the best things they'd introduced in an age.

*Update 23/10/13 - it's back! Did they listen to us?

Not only that, they've introduced your latest guest review, right at the top of your listing...

Deleting the CSI

A retrograde step. The CSI, like Booking.com's score, was useful and fair to everyone. Ranking hotels, especially in large cities like London or New York is misleading to the consumer (a great hotel can rank at 200 in London, a pretty average hotel can rank in the top 5 in a country town) and unhelpful to the business.

We have racked our brains and cannot think of a single logical reason for dropping it.

Showing your most recent review

Great if it's a 5* like the one for the Strand Palace above - not so great if it's 3 stars or worse. Definitely not great if the snippet TA's computer chooses refers to anything like 'noise', 'a sleepless night' or worse. Right up there to catch the potential guest's eye. All research indicates that immediate first impressions count massively - a potential guest can be driven away from your TripAdvisor listing in less than two seconds.

Fancy seeing this at the top of your TA listing?

Ironically, the only people we can see who will benefit from this move are our clients! It's now even more important to make sure negative reviews don't make it as far as Tripadvisor.

Monday 7 October 2013

Control - the key to managing your reputation

Our clients know why they adopted Dialogue - for hotels it's higher rankings on the OTAs and more direct bookings, for estate agents it's more enquiries and a higher conversion rate. For all our clients it's 'more business'.

An they are be right. But overarching all of this is the control* Dialogue gives our clients over their reputations.

Used properly Dialogue replaces all the online media (review sites, forums, Facebook, Google+, Twitter and the rest) as the preferred channel of communication for their customers. They simply don't feel the need to criticise you in public any more; better than that, they actively welcome the resolution process embedded in Dialogue.

Think for yourself: you stay at a hotel, the location's great (you chose it, after all), the room was fine (maybe it could have been a little bigger), but there was an issue that, if left unaddressed by the hotel, would prevent you staying again. You use an estate agent, but you have an issue with a member of staff which may turn into a deal-breaker. How much better if those issues could be resolved and you could continue using those businesses that you already know?

You (the business) might say 'but they could have phoned/emailed me - they didn't need Dialogue' and that's exactly what we thought three years ago; but history and first-hand experience has shown us both to be wrong. These days consumers are increasingly conditioned to voice complaints online, and they will (as you know). If you don't offer them a mechanism like Dialogue you are effectively forcing them to use sites like TripAdvisor, Google+, Yelp, AllAgents and the rest. So they have to be offered an online alternative that they welcome.

Dialogue is that alternative. And we've proved it time and again: adopt Dialogue and the negative noise dies away.

Dialogue: keeping consumer communication where it should be - direct with the business.

*And one important post script: The word 'control' sometimes has negative overtones for consumers; there's nothing negative contained in Dialogue - quite the opposite - because every step of the way they retain control of the conversation, they always feel comfortable bringing their issues to you: your customers actively welcome Dialogue.